Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Blop #4 - Rachel Rodriguez

Blop #4
by Rachel Rodriguez, Soprano

Hello all! I am Rachel Rodriguez, a Music Education major, soprano, and now a senior! There are so many words to describe my experience in opera thus far. Incredible. Life-changing. Challenging. Humbling. Those are only a few; I could fill this entire blog with words to describe how much opera rocks. I’ve been in every production since I have been here at Sam Houston, and it has been a blessing (as well has very hard and rewarding work.) I’ve been cast in so many wonderful and enriching parts, from 2nd Spirit in The Magic Flute, to Amahl in Amahl and the Night Visitors, to Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro. No matter what I role I’m cast in, I always have fun and learn so much. We are so lucky to have Professor Grimes as our opera director; she pushes us in the right direction, challenges us, and just wants to see us succeed.

Now, why is opera incredible? Not only is it enriching to perform, but also it’s enriching to perform with your colleagues. I have learned so much from my colleagues about performing just from observation and working with them. Our opera family is awesome, and it’s nice to have a group of friends who are also just as interested in putting on great productions of shows and scenes programs.

Opera is challenging. Period. But, that’s also part of the fun. I would not be the musician I am today if I hadn’t been in opera. Opera teaches you how to be self-dependent; you learn the music before your first music rehearsal. It seems scary, but once you learn how, it becomes second nature. I have learned so many tricks and techniques on how to learn my music efficiently that whenever I pick up a piece it’s not as daunting to head to a practice room to learn.

I have been humbled by opera in more ways I can count. Around every corner there is a learning opportunity, and a way to better yourself as an actor and a singer. Being able to hear feed back from your colleagues during a master class is so helpful. You find places that need improvement in places you didn’t even know existed. How to walk into an audition, stage presence, the way you stand, how you express yourself within in a piece; everything you could ever imagine.

I am sad to say that as a senior, after this semester I will only have one more semester with this program until I student teach in Spring 2014. This program has changed me as not only a singer, but as a person. It’s been my place to come to when I’m happy, sad, etc. I have been blessed with opportunities that I am quite certain other undergrads at other schools don’t get to experience until after they graduate. The amount of performing you will do is invaluable. I love being a part of this program, whether I’m doing my props mistress duties, or participating in filming for certain productions, I am always enjoying myself.

The future holds so many exciting things, and I truly believe that being a part of this program has set me up for success. But for now, I am glad to be where I am. Learning, growing, and as always, singing. 

The author as Susanna in SHSU Opera's Opera Incognito

Friday, January 18, 2013

Blop #3 - Shelby Murphy

Hello, blogger-friends! I’m Shelby Murphy, a wise-fool of the School of Music, and a second year at SHSU! I’m so happy to be writing about Opera. Not just the course, naturally, but also the music, which is really the second-best part (after the people you make it with.)

My experience in opera, while not always fun and games, has been the most revealing of anything else I’ve done (and I’ve worn probably more than my fair share of costumes.) It has shown me what I can handle and what I can’t, and has forced me to stretch my limits far beyond what I expected it to.
Things I’ve Learned:
                1. My opera director will never give me something I can’t handle. Challenging music, yes. A role I really have to act for, yes. But never enough to break my brain.
                                At first, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew that the product looked cool, and that running lights during tech week was a lot of fun, but I had no clue as to what happened in Room 201 after 3:30 every day. Needless to say, I ended up really underestimating this class during my first semester of participation. In fact, it was only after dropping a piece and crying in the shower for a couple of nights that I really started to find my groove to work in. But Mrs. Grimes, wise and wonderful as she is, never lost faith in my ability to catch up and keep up. Even though I wasn’t there telling her exactly how overwhelmed and freaked out I was, she knew I could handle it. She knew I could manage this program and whatever she threw at me, and that really gave me the strength to push through the hard times and help to create an awesome and successful program.
                2. I do not have to live my character’s life – but I do have to understand it.
                                This is a hard one to explain, but I suppose the easiest way to put it would be to say that I am an avid day-dreamer; it is my get-away, my go-to when things don’t go where I want them to. (Granted, most of my day-dreams still involve faeries and catastrophic events where I magically remember all of my martial arts training, but regardless, I like playing the hero.) Many women in opera, however, are not the hero. My role this last semester was, in fact, Carmen, the infamous gypsy who dared to defy all laws and who strived to save only herself. It was a very uncomfortable place for me to go, since I’m not the kind of person to be so boldly defiant of social laws, or even to be so feminine and sexy. (Yes, I like feeling pretty and dressing well, but “feminine wiles” have always been a bit out of my grasp.) So, playing Carmen, I had some difficulties until I realized that the acting portion should be more my forte than even singing. So I day-dreamed, and I imagined where I would have had to come from to be like her. I imagined what I would have had to do to get where she was, and I realized: my role doesn’t have to reflect me. In fact, Carmen’s very different from who I want to be; but, in order to be someone completely different, I must understand who she is in order to do her justice.
                3. Finally, Opera has taught me that I can be friends with people I can’t work with.
                                I know that sounds completely cliché (like someone just cut into the sharpest cheddar you’ve ever had – or maybe the biggest block of parmesan), but it’s totally true. Last semester, I became friends with someone who shared much with me intellectually, but who worked completely differently. She and I did not work well together, and in fact, she did not work well with anybody in the program; but still, despite our opposing values and work-ethics, we could be friends. I have never previously had a friend I could not work with, but she taught me that in some scenarios I can work with people I don’t like better than people I do – (and that’s not saying I don’t like the other people in Opera. Pretty much everyone in there is the coolest person I’ve ever met. We’re just not as close as I was to this person.) It was a rough relationship, with lots of ups and downs, but at the end of it, I think I made a worth-while friend, despite our difficulties, and I think that was a valuable lesson to learn.

I’m sure I’ve learned more that I simply haven’t noticed. I’m sure I’ve changed a lot, even if others can’t see it. I’m also sure that there are more lessons to learn, which is why my path must continue this way. I look forward to more growth, more challenges, and more music-making with you!

The author as Carmen in SHSU Opera's Pardon my French!

Blop #2 - Courtney Stancil

Courtney Stancil – Blopera 8/29/12
 Four years ago when I first came to SHSU, I had no idea what it took to be a music major. I thought it would be just going to choir every day and learning a few things about music theory. When you sit through your first class, or have your first voice lesson, it's quite intimidating...You aren’t sure what you’re getting yourself into. So much information that you’ve never heard before is being thrown at you and it can be a little overwhelming. What I quickly learned is how helpful the faculty and staff is. Each semester got easier after that.
I also didn't know being a classically trained singer meant not singing anything in the musical theatre genre. Opera was the last thing on my radar. However, when I was cast as Belinda in Dido and Aeneas my sophomore year, I knew immediately I was in the right place. The first time I stepped out onto the stage, I can’t describe how nervous I was. My hands were clammy, my stomach was turning, my mouth was dry; my whole body was shaking. I had performed in Les Miserables in high school as Eponine, but opera was a different animal. The setting for opera at SHSU is more intimate because we are limited on big performance spaces. Dido and Aeneas was in the old recital hall on campus, not the new Performing Arts Center. There were people two feet away from me. I was afraid of singing too loud or not being able to act under pressure considering the fact that I wasn't the best actress or singer; I was only a sophomore. But I had been given an amazing opportunity and I didn’t want to waste it. That performance was the most exhilarating experience I had ever had up to that point. After that show, I had more motivation to be successful as a performer. Since Professor Grimes has been here, she has given me so many opportunities to perform numerous roles in scenes and in large productions. She has also given me the opportunity to explore the role of an opera director which has shortly become another passion of mine.
As I come back for another year after graduating, I can look back at my time as an Undergrad and know how far I've come. Being a singer at SHSU has shaped me into the performer and singer I am now and I'm so grateful I came to such a wonderful place for my Bachelor’s degree. If I had any advice to give to young singers, it is this: take advantage of the knowledge and the time you are given with these amazing people at this University. It goes by so fast; don’t take it for granted. –Courtney Stancil
The author as Susanna in SHSU Opera's Le Nozze di Figaro

Friday, August 31, 2012

Blop #1 by Amber Jamison

Amber Jamison - Blop #1

All of my conscious life I’ve been involved in theatre of some sort. When I was about 5 I played my first role (something like ‘Mouse #3) in a production of Thumbelina as part of an annual summer festival which used to be hosted at SHSU. When I was a little older I’d travel to Conroe to be part of Community Theater there along with my sister, and when we were ten and fourteen respectively we were accepted into an agency in Houston for a short time. High School brought dozens more performance opportunities. I was a part of every after school production, sixteen total including three musicals, in some capacity or another, competing in UIL One-Act all four years and taking office in Thespian Society the last two.
            But then there was this thing called choir. See, while I had been in theatre for so long I’d also been singing (and occasionally dancing, but that’s another blop) and had gotten rather good at it. After four years of Huntsville Children’s Choir I had decided to “take a break from singing” altogether during my freshman year of High School. It was so unnecessary, after all. I intended to focus solely on theatre from then on.
            It didn’t work.
            What I realized was that I needed music as much if not more than theatre, so come scheduling time, I hesitantly signed up for choir. In short, over the next three years God blessed me in unimaginable ways through that decision. I met incredible people from around the state, worked with some wonderful directors both in school and at TMEA and through them realized I was being called into music.
            When it became apparent that I would be attending SHSU as a music major I thought that was the end of my time on stage beyond choral or solo work. Oh buddy was I wrong. My sophomore year I heard that opera workshop was doing Amahl and the Night Visitors for their Christmas production. Long story short I auditioned and was cast as Amahl. I was back on stage and really surprised at how little opera differed from my previous experiences.
            Point is, you don’t have to stop Thespian-ing it up when you become a music major, in fact it is highly suggested you keep it up! Don’t think if you become a music major you’ll never take blocking notes or move set ever again. You can and you will, you just might be singing in a different language when you do it. :)

---Amber Jamison, soprano and member of SHSU Opera Workshop

(Pictured below is the author as Cherubino in SHSU Opera's Summer Production of Le nozze di Figaro)